Forty years later, the Cavemen still rock the house

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Jewett City - posted Tue., Aug. 9, 2011
The Cavemen, who played local clubs back in the 1960s during high school, launch into rock 'n roll standards during their Aug. 5 reunion concert. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
The Cavemen, who played local clubs back in the 1960s during high school, launch into rock 'n roll standards during their Aug. 5 reunion concert. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

It’s been more than 40 years since the band broke up and the five musicians went their separate ways. But you’d never guess it from the banter around the table when the Cavemen sat down to chat before their big reunion concert last weekend.

Laughing, joking and finishing each other’s sentences, the five Griswold natives recalled their glory days. “We played bars and clubs at night and went to high school during the day,” said guitarist Wayne Etzel.

Since the Cavemen dissolved in 1968, its members have grown up, gotten married, had kids and grandkids. But despite the intervening decades, the band’s local fan base was strong enough to fill the Jacques Cartier Club with happy dancers on Aug. 6, as the Cavemen returned to “where it all began,” the site of their first public performance, for a festive reunion concert.

And the years melted away further when the musicians, all now in their 60s, picked up their instruments and began to rock the house. From their opening number – appropriately, John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” – through bluesy renditions of “Chain of Fools” and “Mustang Sally” and an original song by lead guitarist Erik Kundlis titled “Makin’ Money,” the multi-generational crowd rocked right along.

Jessica Maksin, of Niantic, daughter of the band’s drummer, danced with her sons, Nicholas, 6, and Alex, 4. “I told them we have to come and hear Grampy play,” she said.

The British Invasion bands of the ’60s were the Cavemen’s heroes. They played the era’s rock ‘n roll music, along with some of their own songs, at local teen dances, from the Jewett City firehouse to Misquamicut Beach, from about 1965 through 1968. Rick “John” Faulise on drums, Richard Koski on keyboard and guitar and Frank Goncharow on guitar and vocals rounded out the ensemble.

The group first practiced in the dance studio owned by Etzel’s mother in 1962. It went through a few personnel changes over the years; by 1965 it consisted of Etzel, Koski, Faulise, Kundlis and Goncharow, and that configuration carried the group through its height of popularity.

“We did a lot in four years. We made a lot of money,” said Kundlis.

Dorothy Faulise, the drummer’s mother, recalled them practicing in her basement. “After a while you didn’t even hear it. But that was before they had all those amplifiers and stuff,” she said. In a nod to her role in the band, she was given the evening’s ticket number one.

Graduation broke the band up in 1968. Etzel was drafted into the Army; Faulise joined the Navy, Goncharow moved out of the area. All five kept their hand in music to some extent; Goncharow settled in California, playing in a series of bands and solo gigs. But he said he was glad to be back with his original group, the rest of whom remained in Connecticut. “These guys are good musicians. They make me look good,” he said.

The Cavemen’s first reunion took place a few years back at a 60th birthday party for Faulise, when he was asked if he would “sit in with the band.” That’s when his former band mates appeared. “It was a total surprise,” he said.

The group re-convened two years later, to play for family and friends. “We decided that this was kinda neat, let’s do it again,” said Goncharow. This time, they decided to open up their performance for their fans, but they agreed Saturday’s performance would be their swan song. “This is the finale,” said Etzel.

“What makes it special,” said Goncharow, “is that after a long time not seeing each other, you have five people who are still talking together and still playing music. That’s pretty extraordinary.”


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